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Media days are over, and football is coming.
KSR had a thrilling week at The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, but now it's getting time to turn our focus to previewing the 2021 football season. However, we're still unpacking literally and figuratively from the week spent in the media room hearing from all 14 head football coaches in the Southeastern Conference.
After touching on the SEC East
, now we'll dive into the SEC West. Here is what was learned from the best division in college football over the four-day extravaganza that is now being overshadowed by another batch of conference realignment.
Alabama: Nick Saban is loose
The best coach in college football history took us for a ride
on Wednesday morning. Despite the joke, Saban gave a great answer as well as delivering his state of the program heading into year 15 in Tuscaloosa. The key to his longevity? Scoring more points to the competition.
"I think that's simple," Saban told reporters. "You've got to win. So what does it take to win? I think that answers the question better than anything. I think you have to have culture in your organization, which probably comes from the mindset of the people in your organization to have goals and aspirations for what they want to accomplish and what they want to do - and I'm talking about players as well here - and they have to have a good understanding of what does it take to accomplish those goals and aspirations to be the best that they can be, and how do they have to edit their behavior to be able to do that and can they have the discipline, self-discipline on a daily basis to execute and do the things they need to do."
The Tide replace a lot but have brought in the top recruiting class in the country the last three cycles per average star rating in the 247 Sports Composite. Once again, Alabama is a premier contender as Saban chases another title. The head coach put out a very positive vibe on Wednesday.
Arkansas: Hogs have an uphill climb
Arkansas is 11-35 over the last four seasons proving that this is one of the toughest gigs in the SEC at the moment. Second-year head coach Sam Pittman is currently beloved by the Razorback faithful even after a 3-7 season. The former Georgia offensive line coach has put together a terrific staff in Fayetteville, but this program faces a brutal climb in the SEC West.
"On our football schedule, we are the defending national champions of the hardest football schedule in college," said Pittman. "I look towards next year, and I think we're going to three-peat in that area next year."
The Hogs draw Texas at home in the non-con to go along with a road trip to Athens to take on Georgia. Oh, and the games against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, and Auburn. Plus a road trip to Ole Miss. Good speed, Sam Pittman.
Auburn: Bryan Harsin gave us nothing
Bryan Harsin was a really good coach at Boise State. The former Texas offensive coordinator and Arkansas State head coach went 69-19 in seven seasons at his alma mater with three Mountain West titles, solid quarterback recruiting, development to go along with stingy defense with multiple coordinators. Despite the track record, the 44-year-old has just seemed like an odd fit at Auburn. His filibuster at the podium confirmed that thought on Thursday.
"Glad to be here," Harsin said. "It has been a long week for me. A lot of good lucks, a lot of hope you do well, and let me just say that I've been in some pretty big games, and I'm not sure I had this many people text me, call me, see me on the street and wish me good luck before some event. So a credit to you all and happy to be here."
After that opening paragraph, most everyone lost attention in the media room. Harsin rambled non-stop about commitment to work, developing players, and other talking points. It was the weirdest moment of the week as no one learned anything about his program. This is on top of adding SEC veterans Mike Bobo and Derek Mason to be his coordinators. Not exactly the most forward-thinking hires.
The recruiting is off to a terrible start while the fit screams awkward. Many will be fading this hire before Harsin even coaches a game on the Plains. Oh, having Saban as your biggest rival certainly does not help matters.
LSU: A lot going on in Baton Rouge
After taking over for Les Miles in the middle of the 2016 season, Ed Orgeron had a very strong run at LSU. The Tigers went 40-9 while taking home a national championship in 2019. However, last year's 5-5 season was full of turmoil that ended with two new coordinators and a bowl ban. There is also a Title IX investigation that Orgeron is involved in. Then, the Tigers seemed to have settled in their two new coordinator hires. Not a lot is going right as Coach O enters a monster 2021 season.
"Obviously, you come off the 2019 season, you're feeling good, you had a great season, and all of a sudden, stuff hits," Orgeron told the media on Monday. "But you know that's life. You've got to be prepared. I think that some of the stuff we were prepared for, some of the stuff we weren't, but we stick together. As an administrative staff, as a staff, we fought through it."
Now we'll see which direction this program is heading following the turmoil of last season. Was 2020 just a case of bad luck or was that historic run in 2019 just an anomaly? LSU should have a top-seven roster in the sport this season, but can the Tigers put it all together?
Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin has the best QB in the SEC
The Rebels finished the 2020 season at 5-5 while having a top-10 offense in college football. The defense was atrocious for most of the year, but Matt Corral was not. The light came on for the former top-75 recruit in the new scheme as Corral accounted for 33 total touchdowns in 10 games while averaging 10.2 yards per attempt and chipping over 500 rushing yards. Kiffin has a first-round talent at QB, and the league needs to be on notice.
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"Statistically, he played as well as anybody in the country," Kiffin told reporters about his quarterback. "Like I said in the stats, reading them in my notes from our SID, only four players, four quarterbacks ever have led, SEC quarterbacks have led the country in yards per game. So to me, that just shows how good he can be if he's consistent."
The redshirt junior is one of the biggest stars of the sport heading into the year and is primed to have a monster season. The one-two punch of him and Kiffin could give us some must-see football in Oxford.
Mississippi State: Mike Leach will always keep it weird
The Pirate certainly delivered in his first time at SEC Media Days. After a 3-7 SEC debut last year, Mike Leach showed up in Hoover with a short opening statement and a great story about the Tennessee coaching search fiasco following the 2017 season.
"I talked to Tennessee, but that thing never -- well, nothing ever got nailed down. Then pretty soon, they had a coup d'etat there. You guys can sort that among yourselves, but that's pretty well-documented," said Leach.
"So, yeah, I didn't end up in the middle of the coup, so lucky for me."
Outside of that, Leach didn't give the media an awful lot. The Air Raid master thinks his team experience after being very young last season should help them have a better year on the field in 2021. The addition of Southern Miss transfer Jack Abraham means there is now a QB controversy in Starkville. State is one of the biggest enigmas entering the 2021 season. This is a team that could go in 100 different directions. The media thinks it could spiral as the Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the SEC.
Texas A&M: Steady climb
Jimbo Fisher is now in year four of that 10-year, $75 million deal, but the Aggies are heading in the right direction. Just take out the conference realignment rumors for a moment, and only Alabama and Georgia are on a better path than A&M. This is a program that is recruiting at a top-seven level, has coaching stability on both sides of the ball, and is fresh off an 8-1 All-SEC run with a New Year's Six win over North Carolina. The Aggies are climbing the ladder.
"This is our fourth class," said Fisher. "That group is juniors now, the first class we recruited fully. Just a tremendous group of people who understand the culture of how you want to play. To me, the culture of an organization is the most important thing, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you think, the way you believe, and the way you go about your day-to-day habits and what you truly create in those habits that allow you to be successful in those big situations."
Culture was thrown out a lot because everyone knows the elephant in the room. Due to some transition at Auburn and turmoil at LSU, A&M has launched itself in No. 2 in the West behind Alabama thanks to coaching stability and blue-chip recruiting. Now the Aggies need to go slay the dragon. We'll find out if they're ready on Oct. 9 at Kyle Field which will likely be a prime time kickoff on CBS when the Tide rolls into College Station.